In fact if one poet has borrowed from the other it must be Eliot who has borrowed from Shade, within the world of Pale Fire. Kinbote was shown Night Rote "in Onhava, in my student days." Since he was born in 1915, we should imagine this to be about 1936, when he is 21, but The Dry Salvages was not published until 1941. Even if Shade had borrowed promptly from Eliot, Night Rote could hardly have been published before 1943, by which time Kinbote would have been 28. A date like 1936 is much more likely.
Eliot's borrowing from Shade would be a nice twist. But Eliot after all has only "rote," not "night rote," and uses many other nautical or littoral terms he didn't get from Shade. Shade at least hasn't borrowed his phrase entire from any poet yet identified, and either poet could have picked up the idiom from those who use it.
Shade in selecting the phrase as a title is surely placing an exceptional weight on it, and punning on "Wrote" (Night Wrote: I wrote these poems at night) and "Rote" as in "Rote Learning" (these poems are inventive, NOT rote-learned, even though unlike those in "Dim Gulf" they are no longer free verse; their rhythm is like the sea's, repetitive but ever-changing). I get a sense of the poet at night, in a trance of composition, hearing the rhythms of the verse forming in his mind beating through his consciousness and keeping him awake, as they do for the narrator of "Torpid Smoke" or for Fyodor Godnov-Cherdyntsev.
Great finds in any case from Matt Roth and Sam Gwynn.
From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum on behalf of Anthony Stadlen
Sent: Fri 14/03/2008 5:00 PM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS re: Rote, Eliot
In a message dated 14/03/2008 03:09:54 GMT Standard Time, nabokv-l@UTK.EDU
This is Eliot's "The Dry Salvages," from the Four Quartets (the poem Hazel
was reading in Canto 2) and it's clear that Eliot is using rote here to evoke
the sound of the sea. I have no idea how this might connect to the rest of
PF, but it surely must be the most likely literary source for VN's
use of the word. I wish I better understood VN's feelings about Eliot; he is
openly hostile towards him, but he draws on Eliot's work in significant
This is well noticed. And where is Shade supposed to be getting the word
from? Is VN attributing to Shade an affectation of distance from, and
near-ignorance of, a poem from which he has actually stolen (like the sea, moon and
sun) a word for a title?
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